A passionate new historical romance in Madeline Hunter's nationally bestselling Seducer series. This one features a fifth member of the London Dueling Society, the reserved, enigmatic lawyer to the Laclere family: Julian Hampton. All his life, it seemed, Julian had been in love with Penelope, now Countess of Glasbury. And when he learned the horrors she had endured at the hands of her vicious husband, Julian was instrumental in arranging for her escape to Italy. But he has never forgotten the love of his childhood, the woman he had rescued first as a "damsel in distress" when she was a girl, and then for real once she had blossomed into woman. When Penelope returns secretly to London, Julian is the one she turns to, even though her trust in him puts both their reputations, and ultimately their lives, in peril.
The title belies the darkness at the core of Hunter's Regency romance cum legal thriller, the fifth in a series that started with The Seducer. Penelope, countess of Glasbury, has been separated for years from her abusive husband, who has yet to sire an heir and now demands the return of his wayward wife. Penelope seeks help from Julian Hampton, family friend and solicitor, who has long hidden his own passion for Penelope. Her appeal forces them into an irresistible proximity. As the earl's demands grow more insistent-and violent-Julian and Penelope must uncover her estranged husband's deepest secrets if she is ever to be free of him. The two principals both have charm, but in the book's second half, every character seems determined to sacrifice himself or herself for others without telling anyone, until the frustrated reader longs for someone to break a confidence or two. Also, because Julian is a "romantic" in the courtly sense, the love scenes aren't as frequent as some might like. Hunter's fans will be content with this offering, but the underdeveloped romance and suspense suggest that the series may be suffering from fatigue. Agent, Pam Hopkins. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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October 25, 2004
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Excerpt from The Romantic by Madeline Hunter
Chapter One For a bachelor, there is no more dangerous person in the world than a happily married woman. To such a female, an unattached man of position and property is a rough stone sticking out of life's wall. The more blissful her own union, the more convinced she becomes that the bachelor stone wants smoothing. She is sure it would be a much happier stone if it were as neatly chiseled and mortared as her husband. So it was that Julian Hampton found himself seated beside the talkative widow, Mrs. Morrison, when he attended the Viscountess Laclere's banquet. He made no special note of the way the viscountess watched the progress of their conversation, but he did not miss it either. "Your occupation must be fascinating, Mr. Hampton," the comely widow said, when her very detailed description of her summer holiday in Brighton waned. "Being a solicitor is very dull employment, in reality." Actually it wasn't, but the Mrs. Morrisons of the world would never understand why. She laughed and her eyes sparkled. She turned so that her glowing face was fully visible. "I cannot believe that anything you occupy yourself with is dull, Mr. Hampton." "I assure you that I am a thoroughly unremarkable man. I bore myself so much that I can barely stay awake." "Well, you do not bore me," she said with a meaningful smile. He speculated on why the viscountess had chosen to throw at him this golden-haired young lady of little wit, submissive grace, and dull loquaciousness. Since he had not pursued the more compelling women trotted out thus far, the viscountess and her friends had probably concluded he did not want interesting companionship in his home. Since Lady Laclere had opened her circle to a woman she probably did not overly favor, and just for his benefit, he dutifully gave Mrs. Morrison serious consideration. She was more than attractive enough, and he suspected she would be pleasant to have in bed. She had a respectable fortune, and lovely breasts partly revealed by her decollete. Her manner indicated that she would be the sort of earnestly accommodating wife whom men were supposed to want. She would be a perfect prospect for a man seeking to secure domestic tranquility. Regretfully, he was not such a man. He lobbed a question about her young son. She took up the topic with the enthusiasm any good mother would show. While most of his mind listened to tales of the boy's antics and brilliance, a renegade corner of it composed a letter to the Viscountess Laclere. My dear Lady Laclere, I greatly appreciate the concern that you show for my future happiness. The parade of eligible females whom you have arranged for me to inspect these last few months has been impressive in its variety. I am touched, nay, I am moved, by your thoughtfulness. I must regretfully inform you, however, that your quest is in vain, as is that of the Duchess of Everdon, and the more subtle efforts of Mrs. St. John. I will not marry. Therefore, I respectfully request to be released from the social yoke that you have placed on me. Your servant-- "My, she can certainly converse with the best of them, can't she?" The low, throaty voice intruded on his letter before he could add his signature. It came on a hush of breath from the woman sitting to his right. Senora Perez. Another married woman, and dangerous in her own way. One quite different from the viscountess. Senora Perez was the wife of Raoul Perez, a diplomat from the young country of Venezuela who lived in London to promote his people's economic interests. They were present at this banquet because it was being hosted by the Viscount Laclere to celebrate the recent passage of the bill that abolished slavery throughout the British Empire, an event of momentous symbolism for all people in the Americas. Julian had t